Book Review: Dan Baum’s Gun Guys; A Road Trip

And there you have it: one of the best last lines in movie history and how I feel about Dan Baum. He’s not perfect. Not by a long chalk. The former New Yorker writer is one of those “reasonable restrictions” commentators who can’t—or won’t—connect the dots between gun control laws and the loss of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As the “gun guy liberals can love,” Baum is a profound threat to our firearms freedom. He’s the Neville Chamberlain of gun rights. And yet . . .

Baum is also one of the greatest writers of our time. His command of the English language is absolute. He has an astounding eye for detail and total mastery of pacing. In that sense, Gun Guys is wonderfully cinematic. Reading the book is not unlike watching a [good] Woody Allen movie, with Baum as the nebbish and the gun guys as “normal” people who seem extreme by comparison.

In the great Allen tradition, it’s a love hate deal. We’ve run excerpts that illustrate Baum’s extraordinary ability to grok and mock his firearms friends at the same time (click here and here). Not to coin a phrase, it’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye out.

The gun guy encounters at the book’s core inspire Baum to bouts of firearms-related navel gazing that invite political interpretation. These passages don’t speak well of his understanding of, and thus commitment to, the cause of firearms freedom. Here’s a passage that illuminates Baum’s perspective . . .

For the most part, we love those guys. They’re the ones we make movies about. And one can’t drive fifty feet without seeing a bumper sticker urging us to SUPPORT OUR TROOPS. What I’d discovered during my gun-guy walkabout was that warriors walk among us, on our own soil and out of uniform. Not every gun guy was a warrior. Not every person who obtained a concealed carry permit was necessarily a warrior. But while I met relatively few of the six million Americans who’d done so, every one I encountered was serious about the undertaking. They’d decided, on some level. to be one of society’s warriors. The question for me, after Las Vegas, was whether it was a role I wanted to play.

No. No it isn’t. Dan is uncomfortable assuming the inherent individual responsibility tied to concealed carry.

More importantly, the author doesn’t like the idea of that responsibility. Adopting it would separate Baum from his liberal peeps: champagne socialists who share his belief that Big Government is a good thing, not a bad thing. That people must be protected from themselves, for their own good.

It’s a sentiment that’s gained ground amongst the chattering classes in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook slaughter. Alfred A. Knopf’s homies published Gun Guys immediately after the spree killing. While the timing has given Baum virtually unlimited access to the left-leaning mainstream media, it also rendered the book instantly obsolete.

Well, not the book itself. Again, Baum’s writing will speak to discerning readers throughout the ages. But his perspective on the gun guys in Gun Guys now looks, well, churlish.

Clearly, Baum detests gun guys’ “paranoia” about government gun grabbing. Clearly, these “extremists” were right and he was wrong. A fact which Baum still refuses to acknowledge. He continues to view his interviewees like the U.S. government viewed the “pre-mature anti-fascists” who fought Franco’s regime.

In a post-Sandy Hook postscript, Baum doubles down. He argues for safe storage laws, mandatory training for concealed carry permits and “universal background checks” (a.k.a., federal gun registration). He makes only the slightest of nods to the slippery slope argument against these measures. “None of these ideas are perfect,” Baum writes, playing the “voice of reason” card to gun guys and gun control advocates alike.

Baum ends Gun Guys by agreeing with President Obama’s assessment that there’s something wrong with American culture [that led to Sandy Hook] and echoes the gun grabbers’ sentiment that “something must be done.”

Not good enough. Not only does the conclusion contradict the excerpt above, it opens the door to any number of abuses. Being a “moderate” on guns doesn’t mean what Baum and his left-leaning pals thinks it means.

Even so, I recommend Gun Guys. It’s one of the best-written books about firearms enthusiasts I’ve ever read. To shun Gun Guys simply because its author fails to understand the true meaning of his subject would to be miss out on some wonderful literature. Gun Guys is a great, if ultimately frustrating, read.